Ah, the holidays…Don’t you just love this time of year?
First there’s Halloween, by all of its various names, a day of celebration or remembrance of the dead and demonic for some; a day of gluttonous indulgences, ridiculous costumery, and abandoned inhibitions for others; a holy day I am partial to now that it shares the calendar date with my wedding anniversary (three years and going strong, albeit on a foundation of quicksand…). This year our Halloween/Anniversary was celebrated by husband going to work and me loading up the kids to head to a friend’s house for a small gathering, then back home in time to hand out candy to a whopping three trick-or-treaters, which is three more than last year, so if this pattern continues I might actually need the four pound bag of candy I purchased two years in a row by the time we pay off the house in 2038.
Then there’s Thanksgiving. We actually celebrated ours that following Saturday rather than on the Thursday it was officially scheduled for on the calendar. husband cooked a huge meal this year, even though it was only us, the kids, and his friend David. I’m pretty sure David is old enough that he could technically be our father. From what I understand, he met husband because David spends all his free time shopping at Wal-Mart. That might not be true, but that’s the impression I get. Anyway, this is the second year in a row that he’s spent the holidays with us. I feel bad for the guy, apparently thrice divorced, no children, and his mother passed away recently. She’d been going for quite a while, but it’s hard for people to let go of their loved ones and it’s hard to be alone during the “holy days.”
In favor of convenience, I have been breastfeeding in my own home, modesty bedamned; David did seem to be eying me periodically, but his conversations seemed to be in line with noticing a woman feeding a baby, so I decided not to be uncomfortable by the situation. We were enjoying the feast husband had prepared and watching a movie, when husband decided to put us on the spot and asked, “So what are you thankful for this year?”
I don’t understand how people get so crazy about a day where the traditional celebration of a bountiful harvest in various tribal cultures has been blended with the myth of pilgrims and “indians” going all “Kumbaya, my Lord” on each other. People whining about how you can’t celebrate if you don’t have god in your life. They mean God, as in the father of Jesus de Christo, not one of the pantheons of deities those aforementioned tribal cultures might have worshipped, nor one of the deities from various other religions throughout the world. Personally, I have a lot to be thankful for without having to thank a random deity.
But husband isn’t religious, and was only asking because the tradition is to make an obligatory statement of thanks each year. But when he asked, I stuttered. I know it may seem shocking to those of you who praise my “way with words” after reading various entries on this blog or essays I’ve submitted for grade or publication, but the truth is I’m not articulate when put on the spot. I mumbled something about the kids and the house. David said he was thankful for friends, presumably us for inviting him to participate in our intimate family feast. husband said he was thankful we had our heads above water; I think he meant that figuratively as in our finances being somewhat in order, but it could have been literal; it would suck to be the non-chosen ones when a huge flood comes through…
An hour or so after the awkward on-the-spot stuttering, I watched husband holding Freya, and I said aloud that I was thankful my daughters had such a wonderful loving father. He just smiled. But that is not all that I am thankful for.
So aside from my children and my husband and my home, what else is in my obligatory statement of thanks this year?
- Funyons. I’m just grateful they still exist. I hardly ever get to have them anymore, but sometimes I crave their fried oniony goodness and happen to have a buck fifty to waste in a vending machine in the corner of some educational or municipal building I happen to be in, and there they are with a halo of light shining down upon them which turns out to be a broken florescent light in the dropped ceiling above and I press the buttons and the bag drops down but it catches on the spinny thingy so I have to drop kick the machine and that doesn’t work so then I give up and buy another bag of chips which amazingly drops both bags down so I get to eat two bags and as I’m eating both bags I can hear my thighs spreading another few inches…
- Henry Ford and interchangeable parts. I was horrified one day to discover that the mice who rudely reside in our house without having the decency to cough up some rent money were boldly going where I don’t fucking want them to be and doing shitty things like eating the intake hose to my Bissel. I fretted over it for a week or two, not sure what to do. I couldn’t afford to order a replacement part and definitely couldn’t afford to buy a new vacuum. I’d just purchased this one last year. Then I remembered I still had husband’s old Bissel. The new one is a bagless model but his old one required bags and didn’t suck, which is bad for vacuums and whores, hence the upgrade. Anyway, I discovered that the intake hose from the old vacuum fit perfectly in place of the hose that had unwantedly been part of a mouse buffet. If it weren’t for the invention of interchangeable parts and then Ford’s concept of assembly lines, Bissel wouldn’t mass produce machines that can be scrapped for parts to their newer models if necessary.
- My dad. I’m not talking about the madman that donated sperm to my mother during their years of marriage. I’m talking about the other wonderful madman that helped her raise me and my siblings. He died this year; I hadn’t spoken to him in three years, since before Luna was born. We’d had a fight and he’d told me to never call him again unless I felt like apologizing to him, but there was no need for an apology on my part, so I never called. Three years went by; he died of cancer. Sadly, it took his death for me to realize and remember all the good parts of him. I called him by his given name (Steve/Stephen) most of the time, unless I wanted something and then I’d say, “Daddy…” because that’s what stepchildren do. I referred to him as my stepdad if he came up in conversation. But he got with Mom when I was about five, and stuck with her until my little brother was in high school. He took me to father-daughter functions at school when I was little and took me to get my first tattoo when I was 18. He was my Dad in all the ways that matter, and I miss him terribly now that it’s too late to do anything about it.
- Social Networking. Some people think that facebook and sites like it are evil time-stealing mind-traps. They’re right…but sites like facebook are also a great way to stay in touch with people you know and love, meet new people, and find people you haven’t seen or spoken to in years. This year, two childhood friends found me on facebook. I had deleted my account in 2008, but recreated it in 2009. I’m glad that I did. I get annoyed with the site sometimes, but I love that I can communicate with friends and family that I cannot contact any other way. I love that I have over 200 “friends” on the site and when I decide to go on a deleting spree I realize I truly do interact with all of these people on a nearly daily basis through the magic of social networking. Who has time to interact with over 200 people any other way?
- Midnight. The time of day and the cat. husband got Midnight for me back in May. He is adorable and friendly and rambunctious and annoying and I hadn’t had a cat since high school so I’m very happy to have him in my life. And since we got him as a kitten he’ll be part of the family for a long time coming, assuming he refrains from attacking my children, who of course are above him on the list of important living beings in my life. The time of day is just peaceful, so long as children are slumbering.
- My familia grande. For those of you unfamiliar with Spanglish: no, that’s not a new item on the Taco Bell menu. I’m thankful for my large dysfunctional family. My sister-in-law recently joked about helping her son make a family tree when he is school age; she said she would make the branches Velcro so that he could demonstrate how our family tree, although forked, has a tendency to relocate branches in such a confusing way. She joked that the teacher would call him a class clown and phone her at home about it. I might have to steal her idea for my own kids’ future “Our Family Tree” projects. I tried to make a family tree in GenoPro for a project my senior year of college. The printed version would have required a huge banner-sized sheet of paper–and I only went back to my grandparents’ grandparents. It was the subsequent generations that caused the beautiful mess. We have instances of children birthed to one branch and adopted to another, instances of persons from another tree joining to our tree in more than one place, instances of more than one person from another tree joining our tree, etc. And family isn’t just blood to me. Halves and steps and even long-term dating situations still make the cut. And people who are divorced out of the legal definition of family are still family to me.
- Wal-Mart. No, Paris Hilton, this isn’t a place that sells walls. This evil multinational conglomeration that sells foreign products at prices lower than other local supermarkets while claiming to love America by selling some local produce is also the place that signs over a check every two weeks to reward my husband for all of his hard work with less money than his blood, sweat, and tears are worth, money which he then turns around and pays utilities and mortgage payments with and uses the rest to put back into the profit margins of the evil multinational conglomeration because if we purchase all of our products there we can get a 10% discount on most general merchandise and a small percentage of consumable products and if we shop at the exact same store he works in rather than one of the other 15 stores within an hours’ drive then it adds to the potential that he might get (barring any frequently occurring unforeseen circumstances) a bonus at the end of each quarter. And they help him buy stock in their company without paying outlandish brokerage fees which we can cash out at any time we so desire as long as we are willing to let them take out outlandish brokerage fees at the time of cashing out. So it’s a total winner in my book.
- And many more on channel four just like you on channel two…as the silly song goes.
The day after the officially sanctioned American Thanksgiving holiday comes Black Friday. I choose to stay indoors on that day for two reasons: a) I am usually more broke than a cassette tape in the hands of two year old and b) I don’t have the resources to gather up a successful posse, an assault rifle, a suit of arms, and a bullet proof vest in order to survive the hordes psychopathic soccer moms out to save a buck on a damn Teletubby-themed backpack or insert pop culture scam of the month here so each of their spoiled brats can have the exact thing he/she/it demanded instead of humbling up a goddamned inch and realizing that the world doesn’t always revolve around little Fido or Gingersnap or whatever the kid’s name might be. Unfortunately my husband works in retail, as I’m certain I have mentioned, so he had to work that day and deal with rude customers. He made it out alive, thankfully.
Now it’s December and Christmahanakwanzika is on everyone’s minds, including the devout atheists among us (although for many of them it’s about how annoying theists can be this time of year). Atheists and theists alike can celebrate this time of year as a means to spoil the children in our lives, hone our gluttony skills, fight with the family, and celebrate our consumerist society by an open fire. This year I’m going to celebrate the birth of Mithra, because that makes as much sense to me as celebrating the birth of Jesus, especially since ancient texts actually date Mithra’s birth to this time of year, whereas ancient texts don’t really have an exact time for the birth of Jesus, but many scholars speculate it was closer to the Springtime and that his birth and death are celebrated at the reverse times of when they would have happened. Some of my friends are celebrating Festivus. There are various other offbeat holiday celebrations if the Abrahamic cultures don’t fit your fancy and you’re not in a Kwanzaa mood.
I don’t really care what people celebrate because the true meaning of December is endings. January is for beginnings–Happy New Year! *blows kazoo* (unless you celebrate the Chinese New Year; whatever tickles your pickle…). Then February is a commercialized celebration of love and black history. March brings Saint Patty’s Day and drunk ass bastards doing pub crawls all around the country to celebrate the Irish heritage many of them don’t have. Then we’re out of the holiday train wreck (I mean ride!) until the Fourth of July, unless you’re in the habit of celebrating every single minor holiday (more power to ya, mister!) or are of Mexican descent (Cinco De Mayo! Which I totally celebrate cause I love Amerexican food and brightly colored costumes).
I wanted to spend this December with family, which I would be doing no matter where I was because Luna and Freya and husband and Midnight are my family as are the various friends we have grown close to in the Fort, but my mother had drilled into my head that she and my sister (driving in from Arizona) and brother (assuming he got leave from Iraq) would be trekking up to my home this holiday. I got excited about this concept. We hadn’t spent the holidays together since my sister brought her husband home to meet the extended family one year. He dropped his pager in the toilet; there was this whole thing; my family won’t let him live it down; he hasn’t been back since. I’m hoping that his career as a firefighter is the real reason for their absence in the family scene, but knowing my own husband’s aversion to my family’s gatherings because of his perception of their perception of him, I can’t be too sure.
Honestly, I haven’t been to the extended family holiday celebrations since before Luna was born. I was in college in Oklahoma and went home Freshman year; that’s when Steve took me to get that aforementioned tattoo. It just hasn’t been a possibility or a financial priority. My Granny tells me they no longer do it up to the nines each year since my generation started having babies of our own and trying to divvy up our time amongst our own in-laws, so going home for the holidays might not be the experience my inner child remembers, but I’m upset that my mother changed her mind about coming up here and that husband doesn’t want me to drive down there unless I do it within the next week or so because I’ll miss out on seeing my sister and brother, unless (as I’m hoping) they choose to still drive up here in spite of my mother’s deliberate absence from a gathering she’d initially initiated.
Bing Crosby–I’ll be home for Christmas. You can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree. Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams. I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.